privacy policy

Elite Informality: Spatializing the Privilege


· Vivek Mishra Northeastern University (Boston, United States of America)


07/29 | 11:00-11:20 UTC+2/CEST


This paper focuses on the geographies of privilege by tracing forms of ‘illegality from above’, and the conflicting responses of different state apparatuses; national, state, and local governments, executives, bureaucracy, and judiciary. In this paper, I argue that the fuzzy relationship between the elites and the state, which is engendered by the marked tensions and/or alliances; not just between different state institutions, but also between the elites and the law, is responsible for producing, managing, and sustaining the informal spatial practices (a phenomenon that has primarily been ascribed to the urban poor) of the elites. This paper intends to highlight the politics behind the formalization (or lack thereof) of unauthorized practices - both economic as well as housing, of the urban elites. This paper draws upon the newspaper archives, government reports, court orders, and primary interviews with different stakeholders. An analysis of Supreme Court of India’s sealing drive of illegal commercial activities in the residential areas, and the response of the state on the emergence of affluent illegal colonies in Delhi, (namely, Sainik Farm, AnantRam Dairy, and Mahendru Enclave among others) suggest that, informal urbanism is at least, as much embedded in the practices of the elites, as it is of the poor. This paper also complicates and extends, the notion of precarity, by situating the idea of self-induced precarity in the discussion of elite informality. I propose that ‘elite informality’ is a useful lens to understand the (mis)appropriation of resources by the elites, and how the produced fuzzy relationship between the elites and the state, transforms the city.